on Sep. 2, 2012 :
Captivating read of an inspirational journey.
On one level, The Next Great Thing is a travelogue, the recounting of the coast-to-coast bike trip, Bikes Books and Better Living. It is a description of places visited and experiences encountered. There are some familiar stops along the way: the Grand Canyon, the St Louis Arch, Gettysburg. But there are more unexpected places as well, places discovered only because of the unique nature of the trip. For example, following a route segmented by what can be traveled in one day by bicycle meant discovering towns like Pagosa Springs, Colorado and mineral pools with names like Serendipity and the Lobster Pot. Having to plan overnight stops around where they could park the support vehicle, a 30' RV, sometimes landed the travelers near destinations like Tonya Littlewolf's Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. Stopping in at least one library a week to share the message of the trip sometimes meant meaningful days in towns like Prescott, Arizona and Clarksburg, WV. Choosing a route that kept the bikers off interstates meant driving through towns, not bypassing them. This allowed time to meet folks, have conversations, make connections, and truly get the feel of a place, places that would become trip favorites, places like Seymmour, Indiana.
The Next Great Thing is also part journal, with more intimate reflections about what the author Kevin Vrabel describes as his "reclamation project", a way to reclaim the hope and joy he had once felt in life, hope and joy that had slipped away amidst the "battle lines of daily living". The construct of the journal is a powerful one, and Kevin effectively draws parallels between his regular musings about his own adventures and the daily musings about the adventures of his grandmother at 13, whose journal he had found shortly beginning the cross-country odyssey. They both remind us that adventure is possible in our everyday lives, and that we don't have to take a cross-country bike trip for great adventure. Some of the most captivating stories Kevin shares from the road are what happens when he visits a chiropractor in Grafton, WV or throws a baseball with a boy just before sunset.
On yet another level, The Next Great Thing is a guidebook for how to live a purposeful, inspired life. How many of us still allow ourselves to dream big, considering something as crazy as biking across country in 8 weeks? Kevin did. His nephews did. And even if we have those whacky, big dreams, how many of us actually put them in motion? Kevin shows us that all things are possible. He also reminds us, though, that inspired living doesn't have to be a dramatic departure from our daily lives. He provides a simpler, more attainable call to action, one that is within our reach every day: "Read a book. Write. Exercise and eat better. Improve your own life, and lives around you improve." Write on.
Finally, The Next Great Thing is simply just a collection of fun, easy to read, often humorous short stories. Kevin has a unique perspective and a strong, clear voice, making this a fantastic read. One of the great lessons of the trip was "you never really know what lies over that next hill… and it's always worth the effort to get there". So, too, with this book, The Next Great Thing, you never know what lies in the next paragraph, the next page, the next entry… but it's always worth reading on.
(reviewed the day of purchase)